the active man's guide to protein
Protein, fat, and carbohydrate make up the three macronutrients. Some experts believe you should lower fat intake and others believe you should lower carbohydrate intake. However, lowering protein is rarely recommended because it’s so important. Nothing can replace protein in your diet.
Unlike carbohydrates and fat, you can’t store protein for future use. To make protein, your body has to break down existing cells in your body. Muscle tissue, for example, is broken down into its component parts known as amino acids.
Amino acids enter your bloodstream where they travel to another area of your body that’s in need of protein. If you eat enough protein, you can build cells faster than your body breaks them down.
How Much Protein?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the average adult is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To figure out your body weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. According to the RDA, a 150-pound man should eat at least 54 grams of protein per day.
However, this number is too low for an active man. Think of it as a daily minimum, rather than a daily target, since this recommendation is geared towards sedentary adults. If you workout three or more times per week your protein requirements almost double, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
The authors of this article observed that beginner weightlifters needed the highest protein intake, sometimes up to 2.3 grams per kilogram of body weight. In fact, eating 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight was only enough protein to prevent them from losing muscle mass but not enough to gain. As you become more accustomed to lifting weights, the amount of protein you need slowly drops to around 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight or 95 grams of protein per day for a 150-pound man.
To figure out how much protein you currently eat and how much you need to add to your diet, download a diet tracking app like MyFitnessPal. Track your food for at least two to three days to see if you’re getting the recommended 1.6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for active men.
What to Eat
If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, there are plenty of options to hit your daily protein goal. You should opt for lean protein sources to limit the amount of excess fat you’re consuming. Some protein sources, like red meat and dairy, are very fatty.
Myplate.gov recommends that you vary your protein sources. They suggest eating seafood twice per week since it tends to be lean. Vegetable sources such as nuts and legumes are excellent sources of lean protein. Spreads like peanut butter and hummus are a delicious, easy way to add protein to sandwiches or snacks. Chicken and lean cuts of red meat are great sources of lean animal protein. And protip: grill, broil, roast or bake your meet to bring out delicious flavors and avoid adding any fat from cooking oils.
Protein powders and bars are popular, but you shouldn’t rely on them. Real food not only helps you meet your protein requirements, it provides you with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you wouldn’t get from a supplement. Use protein products as a crutch when you’re on the go and don’t have access to an actual meal.
One of the arguments for taking supplements is timing. There’s a school of thought that you need to consume protein as soon as your workout is over to maximize the muscle-building effect. The belief is that your muscles are primed to recover after your workout because they’re filled with blood. They’re also breaking down faster than at rest, but you can theoretically reverse that process by ingesting protein.
The period of time when you’re susceptible to protein after a workout is called the anabolic window. While there might be some truth to the theory, researchers found that your total protein intake over the day is much more important. Eating protein immediately after your workout may give you a little boost, but it doesn’t seem to be very important. Instead, focus on hitting your protein goal of 1.4 to 2.3 grams of kilogram of bodyweight, depending on how experienced you are.
It might seem like the more protein you eat, the more muscle you build. That’s true to a certain point, but too much protein takes a toll on your digestive system and can result in long-term side effects. Healthy people shouldn’t exceed two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day in the long term, according to a 2016 paper published in Food & Function. The researchers note that consistently high protein intake can give you kidney and digestive problems.
If you have pre-existing kidney or digestive issues, talk to your doctor before you start adjusting your protein intake Otherwise you might exacerbate pre-existing health problems health conditions.
Henry is an NYC-based personal trainer and freelance writer. He’s been lucky enough to work with people from all walks of life, ranging from professional athletes to grandparents. You can find out more by visiting his site, henryhalse.com.